Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is for me, as I am sure all of you can imagine, a very great moment to be standing here, as the President has indicated, as the first American President to be here in Israel and, particularly so, because our two countries have been joined together in friendship from the time of Israel's birth as a nation in our modern times.
We have been through, over these years, some difficult times. During the period that I have served as President of the United States, we have been through some difficult times together, and I can only say that the friendship that we have for this nation, the respect and the admiration we have for the people of this nation, their courage, their tenacity, their firmness in the face of very great odds, is one that makes us proud to stand with Israel, as we have in the past in times of trouble, and now to work with Israel in a better time, a time that we trust will be a time of peace.
Reference has been made to the fact that this is the first visit of a President to Israel, a President of the United States. It is, of course, not my first trip to this land. I was here in 1966 and then at the very end of the June war in 1967.
As I visited some of the troops, as I met for the first time the now Prime Minister, then commander, and also Mr. Dayan and others who were leaders of Israel at that time, and particularly as I visited the hospitals where some of the wounded were--the wounded on both sides--I realized, first, how much Israel had gone through to defend itself in war, how much war cost not only Israel but also those on the other side, and how the goal of peace was one that was in the interests of both sides, in the interest of Israel, this nation of enormous ability, enormous prospects, whatever the odds may be, but a people with the ability to go forward to heights undreamed of if the terrible danger of war could be reduced and even sometime removed.
And that is why, at this time as I travel to nations that over the past few years have been Israel's traditional adversaries, 'that I have been glad to know that the people of this nation understand, that they appreciate the purpose of that journey.
The people of Israel understand, appreciate the purpose of a journey I will take later to the Soviet Union for the third meeting with Soviet leaders. And that purpose is the purpose of peace for all the world and, in this area particularly, peace among the nations involved. It is not an easy goal to achieve.
The road ahead is difficult, because the peace that we seek, that all nations in the area seek, must be one that is just and one that is equitable, one that provides the opportunity for each nation to maintain its independence and its security against all those who might threaten it.
But we have taken the first steps down that long road and now, working with our traditional friends from Israel as well as with some of the other nations in the area who have indicated a similar desire to find a way to solve differences through peace rather than war, we believe the goal can be achieved.
We are dedicated to it. We know that you, too, are dedicated to it. And I would say, finally, you are dedicated to it not because you have, as you look back over your history, any fear insofar as your ability to defend yourself is concerned, because you have demonstrated your courage over and over again, but you look forward to the achieving of this goal because you know how much more Israel--this great, proud people, small in numbers but high in intelligence and dedication and ability-how much more they could create for their own good and for the people of the world if they could turn their full attention to the works of peace. That is our goal.
An impossible dream, one would have said when I was in Israel at the end of the June war in 1967. A possible dream now. What we want to do is to make that possible dream come true with your cooperation, with your help, and I am confident we can.Note: The President spoke at approximately 3 p.m. at Ben-Gurion Airport in response to remarks of welcome by President Ephraim Katzir.
The Prime Minister was Yitzhak Rabin.
President Katzir's remarks were as follows:
Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, distinguished guests from the United States, ladies and gentlemen, blessed are you who come in the name of peace:
You are the first President of the United States to visit the State of Israel, and we welcome you and Mrs. Nixon and the distinguished members of your party with a very warm shalom. Your visit to our country is an occasion of joy as well as of great significance for us.
The United States has stood by the side of Israel from the day of her rebirth as a sovereign state. Throughout the years, the great American people have demonstrated their friendship. In hours of trial, we have enjoyed your sympathy and support just as we always have benefited from your Nation's generosity in helping us to advance our country and to bring a better life to our people.
You, personally, Mr. President, have demonstrated in a singular manner your amity and your constant readiness to come to our assistance. We' shall never forget, Mr. President, that you stood with us in hours of grave perils as well as in days of opportunity and hope.
And today our hopes are that our people, gathered from the four corners of the Earth after centuries of persecution and decades of wars, will be able to live as free men in peace and security.
We are grateful to our great sister democracy and to you, Mr. President, for all that has been done and is being done to strengthen us in our national rebuilding. You will have some opportunity to observe for yourself what has been accomplished in transforming this once barren land into a fast developing and vibrant country.
We welcome you, Mr. President, because your presence here epitomizes the mission of peace in our area which the American Administration, under your guidance and leadership, is pursuing. As a people whose supreme goal is peace, we applaud your efforts in which we wholeheartedly participate.
We know that you, Mr. President, regard the mission of peace in this area as an essential ingredient of the wider endeavor to build a world structure of peace.
On behalf of the Government of Israel and the people of Israel, and in the spirit of the profound friendship between our nations, I bid you Barukh Haba, blessed be he who comes.